Feb. 2, 2015 – Members of the Safe Harbour team at The Center for Youth are identifying and assisting more victims of youth trafficking, and the Greater Rochester community is taking notice.
At a recent meeting, the Monroe County Legislature proclaimed January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month and honored The Center for its leadership locally. The Center’s Safe Harbour team is the lead agency of the countywide Safe Harbour program. The team creates awareness of youth trafficking while advocating for and providing services to victims.
“In many cases, our program has been the model statewide because we’ve had the ability to build Safe Harbour and implement things in a way that works for youth,” said Safe Harbour Coordinator Nicole Thomson, who has worked with victims of commercial sexual exploitation her entire career.
Thomson and Safe Harbour Advocates Chassity Dennis and Deidre Reid are on the front lines, working directly with victims to provide them with options. The accessibility of The Center’s emergency housing and counseling services has allowed victims to engage voluntarily and build trusting relationships.
“So if they need medical care, clothing or food, we’re there for them, or if they make the decision to leave their trafficker, we help navigate them to a safe place,” Thomson said.
“We try to be the link between the hopelessness they’ve experienced in their lifetimes and the resources that will help them make better decisions,” Chassity said.
The team continues to build strong community partnerships, which resulted in a greater number of referrals of victims and at-risk young people to Safe Harbour in 2014.
“People would be surprised at the extent of the problem,” said Jessica Knapp, Safe Harbour Data Coordinator. “When you look at the numbers, you can see there’s so much more to be done.”
“I want to be able to do it all, and it’s hard to realize you can’t do it all,” Deidre said. “Each youth is different, and their individual situations are complex.”
But with the support of Monroe County and the many community partners, Safe Harbour is making strides. In January, Safe Harbour started a support group for youth victims and parents of victims of trafficking. The team also plans to expand its focus to the commercial exploitation of young men and labor trafficking involving youth in 2015.